Movie Review

It Chapter Two

Director: Andy Muschietti
Starring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, and Bill Skarsgård
Monte’s Rating 3.25 out of 5.00

By MONTE YAZZIE
FILM CRITIC

Memory is a funny thing.

Think for a moment about what you remember from the past? Think about a fair or carnival you went to. Do you remember the sound of the carnival? The smell of the cotton candy? The words illuminated in bright florescent lights on the rides? The feeling of seeing that clown make a puppy out of balloons?

Is it the one sensation, the one word, or is it all of it? Depending on the experience, the emotion connected will determine what and how you remember the event. And as the memory drifts farther from the moment, elements tend to change in exaggerated ways or sometimes fade in how strongly you remember everything.

“It Chapter Two” explores with the aspect of memory, also the trauma and fear associated with the past in the sinister saga of Pennywise the Clown versus – the now adult – Loser’s Club.

Twenty-seven years have passed since the showdown between a group of young friends and a monstrous being who utilizes the deepest, darkest fears of its victims against them. The young Loser’s Club defeated the evil creature, who takes the form of a clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), but only in delaying his feeding schedule.

Now the group of adults must return to their hometown of Derry, Maine to face the fears of their past unleashed upon them by the malevolent Pennywise. 

The Loser’s Club are grown-ups who have found success: Richie (Bill Hader) is a comedian; Ben (Jay Ryan) is an architect; Eddie (James Ransone) is a risk analyst; and Bill (James McAvoy) is a famous writer. Beverly (Jessica Chastain), the lone lady in the group, seems to have a successful life but is married to an abusive husband.

While they have worked to separate themselves from their past trauma, a simple phone call from Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), who still lives in Derry, brings the past crashing back to the present.

The past has a way of coming back. This is target sentiment for “It Chapter Two” and a turn of dialog uttered in different ways by every member of the grown-up Loser’s Club. The narrative focuses significantly on this primary story element throughout the proceedings that occupy the group’s journey back to the past.

Through flashbacks, scenes featuring the completely delightful young Loser’s Club’s actors from the first film, and terrifying manipulated recreations; ones that evoke the deep-seated fear and trauma from the childhood of these characters, “It Chapter Two” composes a rich and rather interesting analysis of fear.

The past makes and molds developments of life; the way we think about the past often connects our emotions in the present in different ways. Much is the same here with these characters.

No matter how far these characters have moved away from home, or separated their trauma from their consciousness, their past remains intact and intertwined with the experience they had in their hometown. With their friends and family, and with the creature Pennywise.

The film narrative uses memory as a catalyst for fear. Pennywise the clown is a metaphor for trauma; childhood, societal and historical all represented in different ways in the film. It’s an interesting touch to the narrative working with genre frights and scares.

It’s unfortunate that this film, amidst its exploration of past trauma as a vessel for horror, somehow fails to execute many of the scary elements throughout the film. Computer-generated effects substantially hinder the effectiveness of the shocks. The sound design is pumped up in places to entice a jump scare, but the images associated fail in making things scarier.

The best moments are the simple ones when Bill Skarsgård is allowed to act in clown makeup and modify his voice in truly disturbing ways. The sound of a weeping clown in the shadows of the dark is truly terrifying. The CGI design of some of the other monsters found here come and go without much remembrance.

The film does a great job of matching the young actors in the first film with their older counterparts. And the performances throughout “It Chapter Two” are good, specifically Bill Hader as the wise-cracking Richie, and James Ransone as the asthma-induced Eddie. The banter between them adds levity to some of the more serious moments.

“It Chapter Two” is nearly three hours long but it doesn’t need to be, even though fans of the source material might enjoy the deliberateness. There are moments in the film that drag, and the tone lingers in places. This is what ultimately makes the running time feel so overlong.

Still, the narrative and performances are especially interesting even if the scares are undercut by an overabundance of exaggerated spectacle. “It Chapter Two” doesn’t have the charm of the first film. But that doesn’t keep it from being an interesting continuation about the themes of friendship, innocence and the places that exist between reality and the unknown that Stephen King explored in his beloved novel.